Friday, August 26, 2005

Hilton Hanoi And Other Ironies

Hilton Opera Hanoi
Originally uploaded by yellojkt.
While researching hotels to stay at, it would disturb my sense of irony that there is a Hilton hotel in Hanoi. Technically called the Hilton Opera Hanoi, it definitely should not be confused with the wartime prison that was sarcastically referred to as the “Hanoi Hilton”.

I guess Hilton has much right to be in Hanoi as much as Sheraton or Soffitel or any other international chain. The Hilton Opera Hotel, which is just a block down from the Metropole, where we stayed is called such because it is adjacent to the elegant colonial Opera House. The Hilton’s architectural style echoes the French colonial style and even the light yellow paint of the recently restored Opera House.

The “Hanoi Hilton” was actually the Hoa Lo Prison, which has been mostly demolished to make way for a large modern office building. The small section still standing serves as a museum dedicated to the atrocities of French rule, although I am sure it’s role in the “American War” is touched on briefly. American POW’s here were kept in inhumane conditions, tortured to extract false confessions, used as human shields for the Long Bien Bridge and generally abused beyond the rules of international warfare. Having had our share of war propaganda earlier in the day we decided not to visit this rather dubious monument to the abuses of war.

Opera House and adjacent Hilton
Originally uploaded by yellojkt.
The second picture, which shows the Opera House on the left and the Hilton on the right, is not deliberately soft focused. Every morning in Vietnam was a waiting game as my electronics, which had been in an air conditioned room overnight, adjusted to the extremely humid weather outside. The lenses needed to be continually wiped free of dew and the camcorder would take up to an hour for its internal moisture sensors to dry out.

Having lived in both Florida and the Philippines, I will categorical state that Vietnam is the most humid place I have been in my life.

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